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The January number of the Monthly is replete with the results of deep and earnest thought, results that should go far towards refuting the charge of superficialness and triviality which has been made-sometimes with justice-against the modern literary productions at Harvard. To any one taking up this number of the Monthly it must occur that here is something worth reading-solid, good, careful work, and interesting matter. The editors are to be congratulated upon beginning the new year so well.
The first article, "Integers and Fractions" is an excellent little essay in which the writer takes the ground that mankind is divided into two classes-the integers, those who look upon life in a manly earnest way, following out their allotted path with simple faith in their own power to do their duty; and the fractions, those who pursue one idea with such enthusiasm that they become bound up in it, forgetting that there are other aims and aspirations and duties in life beyond that one idea. The writer calls those who burst their bonds and try to fill a sphere for which they are not fitted, improper fractions, because of their tendency to raise the numerator of life at the expense of the denominator.
"Monsieur le Cure" is a pretty little tale with an evident moral. It deserves to be read because of the good lesson of self-sacrifice which it teaches, a lesson which, in the case of many of us, would not be wasted.
"Imagination in Architecture" is a good attempt, but it fails to prove anything, through the self-same fault of which the writer accuses Ruskinmere assertion. The writer begins by abusing Ruskin for asking us to accept his statements on simple faith, and then turns round and asks his readers to believe that the effect produced on him (the writer) by a certain style of architecture is the same which would be produced on everyone. The paper is not long enough for a thorough ventilation of the subject, and is therefore, rather unsatisfactory.
"Mr. Howells and the Realistic Movement" seems like an attempt to hoist that author into the position of leading novelist of the nineteenth century. It is hard to judge in a case like this, because personal taste must play so important a part in our criticisms. But I cannot agree with Mr. Parker, though I admit that his arguments are strong ones, and seem to be founded upon a more thorough study of Mr. Howells and his works than is usual with a living author at the present day. As a result of careful consideration the article is well worth a perusal.
"Walt Whitman and his Philosophy" is decidedly, with the exception of the last mentioned, the most interesting essay in the number. It was for some time the fashion to bring up young men either to consider Walt Whitman as a harmless crank or not to consider him at all. Lately, as we all know, public interest has been aroused in the man, and then, naturally, in his poetry. It seems to me that the writer is a little too enthusiastic over his subject; that a poet whose work requires such a deliberate course of study and investigation before it can be appreciated, is not a poet in the true sense of the word. A true poet should make himself felt, should draw us to him, and not ask that we should go grubbing in his immense field of tares in order to find the few good seeds that some wind of chance may have scattered there. However, it is possible that our lack of education in Whitman's poetry, may cause a lack of appreciation in his work. None are so blind as those who won't see. The writer of the article has studied his subject well and we must respect his opinions, while we may not agree with them.
Of the poetry "Sigillum Academiae Harvardianae" is an old idea worked into a very pretty new shape. The last four lines which refer to the Seal of the University are worthy of quotation:
"At last-if we have read the while aright-
The countiess lamps of Veritas shine bright;
Yet over and around them all we see
Th' encircling Christo et Ecclesiae."
"For Music" is a pretty little love ditty clothed in jingling, rhythmical lines. "Through the Twilight" is a charming bit of verse, which, like most of his work, is a credit to its author. It is hard to discriminate when all the stanzas are so good, and want of space forbids us to quote the poem in toto. This excellent number closes with an editorial and book-notices. Mr. James Schouler will contribute the opening article-"Andrew Jackson, Doctor of Laws"-to the February number.
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